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Friends of Blairs Loch add more features to beauty spot at edge of Forres


By Garry McCartney

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Richard Jordan, Mike Sutherland, Jim McKay building a second bird hide.
Richard Jordan, Mike Sutherland, Jim McKay building a second bird hide.

FORRES is well on the way to having another beauty spot worthy of visits from both people and wildlife.

Volunteers Friends of Blairs Loch (FBL) have recently received the remaining funds they need to build an outdoor learning venue next to a bothy they have refurbished at the water’s edge; built a boardwalk leading to the site of a new bird hide; enhanced the quality of the water; and are inviting the community to get involved in the ongoing rejuvenation of what is sure to be a major visitor attraction.

FBL treasurer Brian Higgs confirmed the group have also improved the site’s bothy and boathouse, and built a bird hide and a bridge to an island picnic table with a panoramic view.

He said: “We have information boards and collection boxes up at the loch and if anyone is able to make a bank donation we can provide details via email to fofblairsloch@gmail.com. We are also very open to anyone that would like to volunteer to join our work parties - simply message our Facebook page , or send us an email.”

FBL have been granted £30,000 from the Beatrice Partnership Fund towards converting a stable to a classroom and are awaiting a building warrant to start the task.

Mr Higgs said: “It takes us up to the £100,000 required to commence the works. We would like to get the new buildings wind and water tight before the worst of the winter weather comes in and then we will work indoors to get the place open and ready for next spring. The Covid-19 situation has impacted progress and we will follow any further guidelines until the pandemic has passed.”

The first bird hide was put up earlier this year.
The first bird hide was put up earlier this year.
The boardwalk is painted with rubberised paint by (from left) Mike Sutherland, Brian Higgs and Richard Jordan.
The boardwalk is painted with rubberised paint by (from left) Mike Sutherland, Brian Higgs and Richard Jordan.

FBL are also trying to raise £5000 for a walkway to their bird hide next to the boat house and building an additional hide.

“The first hide is very popular but is only accessible across a rough piece of ground,” explained Mr Higgs. “We are raising funds to landscape the area and put in a wheelchair-friendly path across to the bridge. On the eastern side of the loch is an island that has wonderful views across the middle. This position is particularly good for early morning viewing/photography because it has the rising sun behind the viewer.”

He added: “Once we stock the loch with fish we will be paid visits by ospreys so building a hide at this location will maximise the opportunity to see them. We’ve cut a new path through the woods to the shoreline and completed a boardwalk to the island. We expect to have the hide completed in the next month or so.”

Friends of Blairs Loch are raising money for a weed cropping device called a Neptune Rake to control weed growth without using chemicals.
Friends of Blairs Loch are raising money for a weed cropping device called a Neptune Rake to control weed growth without using chemicals.

There is only a small inflow of water from the Manachy burn and the outlet is close to the inlet. This means the water does not turn over quickly and levels of nutrients have concentrated so heavy aquatic weed growth has contributed to algal bloom.

Mr Higgs said: “We are working on a maintenance plan that will improve the water quality over the next few years.Altyre Estate have carried out work upstream which will help reduce the amount of nutrients coming down the burn and with a special licence from SEPA, we did some spraying of the aquatic weed.”

FBL are raising £5200 for a ‘Neptune Rake’. They already have a £2600 grant from Viridor Credits Ltd via the Scottish Landfill Community Fund towards the equipment, but need to raise the remainder.

“The sooner we start on the maintenance work, the sooner we will get the loch more balanced,” said Mr Higgs. “Then we’ll be able to stock it with trout.”

The collection box and information board at the bothy.
The collection box and information board at the bothy.


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